Americans eat a lot of sugar. According to a 2012 infographic from www.OnlineNursingPrograms.com, we consume about 130 pounds of sugar each year. And when I say sugar, I don’t just mean sugar from sugar cane. I am referring to corn syrup, which is used to sweeten our favorite soft drinks, of which the average American drinks 53 gallons per year. That sounds bad, and it is, but brain scans show that sugar is addictive as cocaine. Well, our national addiction is in major trouble from climate change.
Corn is the biggest agricultural crop in the U.S. It’s a $65-billion-a-year industry and global warming is putting it at a significant risk. A report released this week by Ceres, a coalition of investor and environmental groups, says that corn is at risk because its water demands are growing at a time when the threat of drought is increasing. Ceres said corn production particularly is in danger due to its tapping stressed aquifers as a water source. A couple that are especially relied upon are the High Plains aquifer, which covers eight Great Plains states, and the Central Valley aquifer in California.
Report author Brooke Barton, Water Program Director at Ceres, says, “Escalating corn production for our food, livestock and energy industries has put the corn sector on an unsustainable path.” The Midwest drought of 2012 pushed corn prices to record-level highs of $8 per bushel and according to the report are "a taste of what is predicted to become the new normal in many parts of the Corn Belt thanks to climate change.”
Rising corn prices also impact more than just the food industry. The transportation industry may also take a hit as corn production is affected by climate change. The crop is used to make ethanol, which is a fuel additive, and accounts for roughly 10% of the country’s fuel.
However, the largest use of corn in the U.S. is still for human consumption one way or another. Even if we’re not directly drinking it in soft drinks, it is still used a livestock feed. Soda manufacturers, such as leading beverage company Coca-Cola Co., could make a significant difference in sustainable corn production. Ceres says they could seek out suppliers of their agricultural ingredients who use less water and fertilizers.
Although, the good news to our waistlines is that U.S. consumption of carbonated soft drinks has been declining for a decade. Maybe we are starting to wean ourselves off of our sugar addiction after all. Either way, it is part of a group of addictions that our country needs to overcome. Using less is the best way to control carbon emissions.
Ever come down with Lyme disease? Do you suffer from asthma? Think climate change might have something to do with it? Before you write off this thought as crazy consider the numbers.
The World Health Organization estimates that a minimum of 140,000 people currently die each year around the globe from the effects of climate change. That number does not include the millions more who are made ill from diseases such as asthma, heatstroke or malaria nor does it account for those that are otherwise physically harmed, for example from extreme weather events.
As if these numbers aren’t bad enough, Americans are largely unaware of the impact climate change is already having on their health. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication conducted a nationwide survey this spring asking respondents to give, “their best estimates of the impacts of global warming on human health worldwide – currently and 50 years from now. The largest proportion of respondents (38% to 42%) simply said, ‘I don’t know.’ The next largest proportion (27% to 39%) said either ‘no one’ or ‘hundreds’ of people worldwide will die, be made ill or injured by global warming each year, either now or 50 years from now.”
“Only 18% to 32% of Americans said, correctly, that each year either ‘thousands’ or ‘millions’ of people worldwide will die, be made ill or injured by global warming, either now or 50 years from now.”
One look at the conclusion of the health chapter of the recently released 2014 National Climate Assessment demonstrates that hundreds of climate experts see the danger from the global warming review they conducted over the past four years, “Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health, and illnesses transmitted by food, water, and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. Some of these health impacts are already underway in the United States.”
We need to begin making the realization that global warming is here, it’s already killing some of us and there is no time to lose in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Americans are especially prone to think that technology will save us. Perhaps, but perhaps not. A new study argues that climate engineering may not be the answer to averting a climate change catastrophe. You know what will definitely help? Reducing what you can and offsetting the rest. Let’s get to it posthaste.
The big news this week is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their proposed Clean Power Plan. Environmental groups and climate change activists have been eagerly awaiting these carbon emission standards for coal-fired power plants.
Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and generate approximately one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA’s proposal, released Monday, will help lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The proposed rules are the latest under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The EPA is charged with proposing commonsense approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.
Last June, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon emissions, prepare the country for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to address global warming. Learn more about the President's Climate Action plan on the White House web site.
For good or ill, climate change continues to be a politically charged issue, often dividing along party lines. However, many companies recognize that global warming is already impacting their daily business operations and that the problem is only going to get worse if we do not take steps now to embrace a low-carbon future.
Sustainability advocacy nonprofit Ceres coordinated letters of support for the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution rule to the Obama Administration and Senate and House majority and minority leaders from 125 companies including the likes of Unilever, VF Corporation and Mars. The letters were also signed by 49 investors managing $800 billion in assets.
Read more about the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.
Within one generation, by 2050, the U.S. can gradually and almost completely eliminate coal and nuclear power finds a new report out from Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council. The report, "Energy [R]evolution – A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook," released last week details the steps we need to take to change greenhouse gas emitting systems such as electricity, heating and transportation. If we follow the groups' blueprint, the country is estimated to reduce carbon emissions 39% percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 60% below 2005 levels by 2030.
This report is the latest in a series of global, national and regional Energy [R]evolution scenarios found at www.energyblueprint.info. "The Energy [R]evolution demonstrates that transitioning to a renewable energy economy can free resources for economic development. It means more and better jobs, greater energy independence, and it is more democratic as citizens attain more control of energy production. Compared with the Energy Information Agency energy outlook, the transition to renewables creates more jobs at every stage of the energy transition, with more than 34% more jobs by 2030."
The Energy [R]evolution's goal is to, "wean the economy off dirty fuels as thoroughly and quickly as possible, and in a way that is technologically, politically, and ecologically realistic." Although this report focuses on the United States, it is, "part of a global analysis showing how the international economy can transition to nearly 100% renewable energy by 2050, while assuming no new 'breakthrough technologies'."
Specifically, the report outlines how by 2050 renewable energy sources could provide:
- Roughly 97% of U.S. electricity production
- 94% of the country’s total heating and cooling demand
- About 92% of America’s final energy demand
"The most recent National Climate Assessment makes it very clear that we need national policies to expedite a clean energy economy," said Kyle Ash, senior legislative representative for Greenpeace USA.
"Fortunately, the energy market is phasing out coal and phasing in renewable energy at a rapid pace, but this must be quickened to avoid climate consequences much worse than the wildfires, droughts, and superstorms the country is already experiencing," said Ash.
Indeed, the Energy [R]evolution sounds like a good way to start putting the brakes on global warming and engender the truly transformative change we must undertake immediately to avoid catastrophic climate change. The time has come for us to embrace a low-carbon future.
Global warming and extreme weather caused by climate change are costing companies millions finds a new report from CDP released this month. The white paper titled, Major public companies describe climate-related risks and costs says, "Each year, CDP requests climate-change-related disclosures from public companies on behalf of a growing number of institutional investors. In 2014, the request for disclosure was sent on behalf of 767 institutional investors with $92 trillion in assets. This report presents key findings and responses provided by S&P 500 companies across economic sectors to the risk-related questions in CDP's annual disclosure requests from 2011 to 2013."
Companies reported risks such as damage to facilities, reduced product demand, lost productivity and necessitated write-offs, whose totals run into the millions of dollars.
The paper goes on to say, "Findings show that S&P 500 companies assess physical risks from climate change to be increasing in urgency, with physical disruptions and cost impacts already being felt.
45% of risks were described by companies as current or predicted to fall within the next 1-5 years in 2013, up from 26% in 2011
50% of the risks disclosed were described as more likely than not to virtually certain in 2013, up from 34% in 2011
68% of the disclosed physical risks were direct to operations in 2013, up from 51% in 2011"
This is not merely theory either. Approximately 60 companies gave examples of current and potential future risks and their associated costs in the research, including:
Wildfires in San Diego caused Sempra Energy’s costs to exceed its $1.1 billion of liability insurance coverage
Consolidated Edison’s costs related to Superstorm Sandy topped $431 million.
Gap reported higher material costs for cotton arising from precipitation changes and drought in China
Companies are poised to make a real difference in the fight on climate change while strengthening their bottom line. Mitigating the risks from climate change simply makes good business sense considering a study by Business for Social Responsibility published last month which says the exposure to the risks from climate change are on the rise. Some estimate the cumulative global cost could be as high as $4 trillion by 2030. The time to act is now. These costs are only going to increase the longer we delay investing in a low-carbon future.
Carbonfund.org supports carbon offset projects that clearly benefit the environment and fight climate change. A recent study highlights how projects such as ours offer even more than combating global warming alone. They can provide additional benefits ranging from employment to health, which is important to countries' economies and limited budgets.
Often the question is posed as whether to cut emissions or use the funds to stimulate the economy. But we can have the best of both worlds with certified carbon-cutting projects; particularly projects in poor countries. And the numbers add up to billions in additional benefits.
Carbon credit certifier, the Gold Standard Foundation, in a partnership with WWF Switzerland commissioned a peer-reviewed study from Australia-based Net Balance. Economists analyzed the environmental and socioeconomic benefits from clean energy or Gold Standard-approved carbon reduction projects.
The report found, "Robustly designed and audited greenhouse gas mitigation projects... deliver far more than carbon emission reductions, meaning it is no longer necessary to choose between climate and other environment and development outcomes."
The study analyzed more than 100 initiatives including building wind farms, planting trees, installing water filtration systems and distributing clean stoves to discourage people from burning wood or charcoal. Then the report identified areas beyond greenhouse gas cuts where there was a potential benefit from projects, such as local economies, employment, health and biodiversity.
The report gives a couple examples; the first shows how three water filtration systems throughout Africa and Asia deliver health benefits such as less air pollution, which is valued at more than $300 million annually. The second example illustrates how 54 Gold Standard-certified wind farms created jobs worth $12 million a year while contributing a total $100 million per year to countries' balance of payments.
Gold Standard Program projects generate carbon credits that can be bought by individuals, businesses and organizations to offset their own carbon footprints. Learn more about Carbonfund.org's carbon reduction projects at http://www.carbonfund.org/projects.
The National Climate Assessment was released this week, which summarizes climate change's impacts on the United States, now and in the future. Produced by a team of more than 300 experts and guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, the study was also extensively reviewed by the public, federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
The report finds that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, global warming could exceed 10 degrees by the end of the century. A quote from the study's overview says, "This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country."
This scientific report is mandated by Congress and is the pinnacle of years of work by hundreds of the nation's leading climate experts. They reviewed the scientific literature and summarized how climate change is affecting our country. The two main conclusions are:
The planet's climate is changing; it is apparent across the U.S. and the last 50 years' worth is chiefly due to human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
Extreme weather is on the rise in recent decades and new, stronger evidence confirms that some of these increases are human-caused.
Our homes, food, water and the very air we breathe are being affected.
Global warming is more than something that our children and future generations will face. It is our reality now. Climate change is already affecting our country and economy. Now that the situation is hitting home, perhaps we will start to make the changes we must make to reduce our carbon footprints and fund clean energy projects.
Read the most recent National Climate Assessment's Overview here.
Last month there was a question as to whether or not Ford lobbied Congress on the Keystone XL Pipeline. However, publically the automakers’ sustainability marketing promises to help achieve "climate stabilization". In the US, companies have to disclose the subject of their lobbying, but do not have to disclose the position for which they are lobbying. This incomplete reporting raises consumer and investor concerns. Smart businesses are beginning to embrace transparency on climate change policies.
Take Ikea Group, for example. The company recently released this infographic to transparently share their position on climate change. In it, IKEA explained why climate change is relevant to its business interests. And they not only made it clear where they stand on the issue and which policy actions they support, they also communicated the message directly to European policymakers. IKEA is lobbying for ambitious, legally-binding 2030 targets for carbon dioxide emissions, renewable power and energy efficiency.
Not all companies take a black or white stance on global warming. Some are merely silent on the issue. There are a multitude of reasons including fear of publically taking a position on a political topic that might push away customers. Some businesses are grappling internally with climate change’s risks and opportunities, putting out consistent messaging, and trying to find the capacity to publically engage on the issue. Whatever the reason, it is certainly delaying much needed political breakthroughs on climate change.
Although businesses fall different places on the continuum of how to publically address climate change, there are resources available to help them engage responsibly with the issue. Take this guide that is a baseline for action and transparent reporting from the World Resources Institute, which was informed by the United Nations and business leaders, policymakers, and investors.
With the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, companies can expect more scrutiny from customers, shareholders and stakeholders regarding their position on global warming. Businesses can make a positive impact on the issue and the time to start acting is now.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, on Monday that says climate change's effects are already happening across the globe. No continent, country or ocean is immune. Unfortunately, in many cases, the world is not prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report determines there are opportunities to respond to such risks but the risks become difficult to manage the more global warming there is.
"With high levels of warming that result from continued growth in greenhouse gas emissions, risks will be challenging to manage, and even serious, sustained investments in adaptation will face limits," said Chris Field, Co-Chair of Working Group II. Field added: "Understanding that climate change is a challenge in managing risk opens a wide range of opportunities for integrating adaptation with economic and social development and with initiatives to limit future warming. We definitely face challenges, but understanding those challenges and tackling them creatively can make climate-change adaptation an important way to help build a more vibrant world in the near-term and beyond."
The report outlines climate change impacts experienced thus far, future risks from global warming and opportunities to reduce risks. Some of the impacts of climate change that have already happened affect: agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people's livelihoods. Climate change doesn't care whether your country is rich or poor, whether you're located in the tropics or the South Pole, on a small island or land-locked on a large continent. It is affecting everyone on the planet and we must prepare now or pay a higher price later. The scary thing is that there are limits, even on the price we can pay.
"We live in an era of man-made climate change," said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II. "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."
Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the IPCC, said: "The Working Group II report is another important step forward in our understanding of how to reduce and manage the risks of climate change. Along with the reports from Working Group I and Working Group III, it provides a conceptual map of not only the essential features of the climate challenge but the options for solutions."
The Working Group I report was released in September 2013 and the Working Group III report will be released in April 2014. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report cycle ends with the publication of its Synthesis Report in October 2014.
According to the "Climate Change in the American Mind" report, 33 percent of Americans said they believed there was widespread disagreement among scientists and four percent said that "most scientists think global warming is not happening." Less than half (42 percent) of Americans knew that "most scientists think global warming is happening."
The fossil fuel industry is waging a successful disinformation campaign. They took their strategy straight from Big Tobacco, who successfully bred doubt for many years that health experts were undecided on whether or not smoking cigarettes negatively impacted health. The idea seems laughable now, but we need to address the serious situation of the ailing health of our planet.
In fact, 97 percent of experts agree climate change is happening and it is human-caused. A new report was released this week from the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The report entitled, "What We Know" doesn’t presume to tell Americans what to think about global warming. Instead it says in the introduction that, "we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action."
Honestly, the first step of admitting that climate change is happening and that humans are the cause is less about blame and more about recognizing that there is a problem before we can take the logical next step to solve it.
I hope we can see the misinformation about climate change for what it is and start making changes before things look like this Isaac Cordal sculpture depicting politicians discussing global warming.